On the Wrong Side of History: Ronald Reagan's Embrace of Apartheid South Africa and Condemnation of Nelson Mandela

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Posted Dec. 11, 2013

Interview with Robert Parry, founder and editor of ConsortiumNews.com, conducted by Scott Harris


As the world mourned the passing of Nelson Mandela, the much loved father of post-apartheid South Africa, 100 current or former heads of state joined tens of thousands of his country’s citizens at a national memorial service held in his honor at Soweto’s FNB Soccer Stadium. Since he died on Dec. 5, the legacy of the 95-year-old symbol of South Africa’s struggle for equality and justice has been the subject of much media coverage in the U.S. and around the globe.

While President Obama, whose speech in Soweto was greeted with cheers, lauded Mandela as a "giant of history" and the last great liberator of the 20th Century, United States policy toward South Africa and its official view of Mandela weren’t always so reverential. While millions of people across the U.S. and the world mobilized to condemn South Africa’s brutal apartheid government and demanded the imposition of economic sanctions in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan opposed those measures and branded Nelson Mandela as a communist and terrorist. Steeped in Cold War ideology, Reagan pursued a strategy known at the time as “constructive engagement,” where his administration offered support to the apartheid regime by inviting senior South African security officials to Washington, violated a U.N. arms embargo and vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have imposed worldwide economic sanctions on Pretoria. The Reagan administration placed Mandela on a U.S. list of international terrorists, where he remained until 2008.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with investigative reporter Robert Parry, founder and editor of ConsortiumNews.com and author. Here, Parry discusses the life of Nelson Mandela, a lawyer, freedom fighter, 27-year imprisoned activist and the first democratically-elected president of South Africa and the shameful chapter in American foreign policy where Ronald Reagan clearly placed the U.S. on the wrong side of history.

Parry is editor of ConsortiumNews.com and one of the reporters who helped expose the Iran Contra scandal in the mid-1980s. He’s the author of “America’s Stolen Narrative.” Find links to Parry’s recent article on Mandela and Reagan by visiting consortiumnews.com.

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